The Casino Culture
The stock market’s casino culture blossomed in the 1990s when technology stretched Wall Street across America, turning every computer screen, in any house, into a trading monitor. Anyone could effortlessly trade stocks and mutual funds as if they were pulling the arm of a slot machine at a Las Vegas casino. No special training was needed—just a few thousand dollars. The days of phoning stockbrokers to buy stocks were over.
Public discussions of similarities between gambling and investing bother most Wall Street executives. Many exchange executives, and even trading strategists, take issue with journalists using the term “betting” in articles to describe a particular trade, the motivations behind a strategy, or any element of the market. Even though the definition of “bet” refers to something laid, placed, or staked on an outcome, “bet” is a dirty word on Wall Street. The preferred word for what happens on Wall Street is “investment” which at once sounds respectable, as the history of the word shows. “Invest” entered the English language around 1387, borrowed from the Latin investire. The word historically described furnishing kings with power and authority.10 “Bet” entered the English language around 1590 from the argot of petty criminals. The word comes from German and though it now connotes risking money on an unknown outcome, it is thought to have been formed by dropping the a in abet, as in aiding and abetting criminals.11
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